On a recent trip to Ethiopia, Italian designer Arturo Vittori discovered how collecting water is both dangerous and time-consuming – especially for women and children. He thinks these water-trapping WarkaWater Towers will help.
Life in the dry northeastern corner of Ethiopia is hard. Women must often walk long distances to find water for the family, and small children forced to come along are thereby kept out of school. This of course perpetuates the poverty cycle.
And even after these treks to fetch heavy buckets of water or wash clothes, there’s no guarantee that the water will be safe. Contaminants often spread illness and other misery. After witnessing this himself, Vittori resolved to come up with a thoughtful and inexpensive solution.
’Warka’ comes from the Warka tree or Ficus Vasta, according to Vittori. Like a wild fig tree, it is native to Ethiopia, and often provides shade and a rendezvous spot for traditional gatherings among Pastoral Ethiopian communities.
The trees, which comprise an important part of cultural life, are also vulnerable to drought and ecosystem degeneration. So the towers designed in their likeness are expected to provide both a sense of pride for these important trees in addition to their very important function, which is to capture potable drinking water.
About 28 feet tall and framed like a basket, the tower is constructed with easy-to-source natural materials such as bamboo or reed framework in a basket-like shape. Inside, a mesh bag of sorts traps humidity from the air.
Given that it is built in sections from the top down, the tower can be constructed without scaffolding, and no special machinery is needed either. The triangular frame gets its stability from bamboo poles connected with natural fiber and wires.
Vittori estimates that this system, which collects the harvest water in a basket, can produce up to 25 gallons a day. Which is hugely significant. To get a sense of just how significant this is, try picking up five gallons of water and then imagine yourself walking two or more miles with one in each arm.
The tower could also be equipped with a solar-powered LED, which would provide security and light at night, so maybe children can study, and a place for the community to gather for special events.
“’Warka’ can be the semination point for a leap-frog development to bring the rural Ethiopian village community into the space age,” writes Vittori.
“The tower can for as an enhanced and shared internet connection for rural communities to bring them such valuable real-time information as weather forecast, actual market prices of food, fruit and vegetables, but also create a higher awareness of the‚ ‘Genius-Loci of the Space-Age’ to continue to live in harmony with the local resources nature is providing.”
Vittori is currently seeking private or government funders for two towers that he hopes will launch in 2015.